Dance and art

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When Tanairi Vazquez was cast in her first-ever Super Bowl commercial, she had no idea she would be the star or that Dolly Parton would be involved. But Vazquez was one of several dancers featured in the Squarespace commercial that aired during this year's Super Bowl, featuring a 2021 remix of the country music legend's hit song "9 to 5."

The commercial, choreographed by New York City Ballet's Justin Peck, is Vazquez's first work since Broadway closed - until Broadway closed last year, she appeared in the Hamilton together. She plays the main accountant on location and feels that this role marks an important step in her career as a Latinx performer.

"It's nice to see the versatility of Latinos as well. We can be leaders," says Vazquez. "For me to be in a national Super Bowl commercial - hello! That's one of the most important things to me as an artist."

Spirit of danceWhat was the pressure of being in a Super Bowl commercial?

Tanairi Vazquez: It's major. Millions of people are watching. I'was so upset, especially when people saw it on "Good Morning America." I woke up to so many texts, calls and Instagram notifications from people I know - and don't know. To be able to represent the arts right now on a platform as huge as the Super Bowl is incredible.

DSHow did you book the position?

TV: I had an audition through my sales agent. I knew it was for Squarespace, but I didn't know who was in it. I had no idea there was a celebrity involved.

For the audition, they sent me a video of Justin Peck demonstrating the choreography. The style was very Justin Peck - athletic, strong, with fast footwork. At the time, I was on vacation with my parents, so I learned the choreography at the Airbnb we were staying at. My mom recorded me doing it on concrete in the parking lot. So it was crazy.

A few days later, I got a reminder that they wanted me to do it again, asking me if I could improvise for 30 or 60 seconds. They also asked me to do some acting for the accounting part. So I made a video where I redid the choreography, and added a little something-something.

I received another reminder via Zoom. It was just to play the role of the accountant. The next day, I got the call. And they say: "Congratulations! We give you the role of the accountant!"

DSHow was the shooting process?

TV: We filmed this in early January. The whole experience was crazy. We had a car service to the airport. We flew to Nashville, where Dolly Parton lives, first class, and they put us up in a really nice hotel.

We got there and I put my costume on - that's when I found out that I was going to be a lead in this commercial. Thank God I had the next day off, because I needed the whole day to process it. I've never been a leader in anything this big. Justin was like, "Surprise!"

DSWhat about COVID security protocols?

TV: We were tested every day and had to fill out a form each time before the tests. We also had our temperatures checked every day. The crew, makeup and wardrobe teams did it too.

Vazquez takes a selfie behind the scenes of the commercial shoot. She smiles at the camera from behind a transparent mask, in her hair, makeup and costume for the commercial. She is wearing a red tank top and her curly brown hair is loose around her face.

Vazquez behind the scenes of advertising (courtesy of Vazquez)

DSWhat was it like to return to work after being sidelined for almost a year due to the pandemic?

TV: I didn't feel safe. I wasn't on the set. I wasn't with bodies. I was doubting myself, like "Am I good enough?", because of what we went through.

But it was an incredible feeling when we had our first rehearsal. I realized how much I missed it. It gave me hope.

DSWhat did booking this role mean to you?

TV: When I got on the set, I realized, "This is where I want to be." During this pandemic, there were times when I thought, "I don't know if I can do this job. Maybe I need to do something else." But the amount of love and support I've received since the ad launch has reinspired me to dream big and keep going.

My parents instilled that in me. They said, "You are Puerto Rican. You do your best. You can do what others can do."

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